Baby Health in Winter Deborah Dugan: Ousted Grammys chief alleges sexual harassment in complaint against Recording Academy

Baby Health in Winter

Ousted Grammys chief Deborah Dugan has filed a complaint alleging that she was sexually harassed by the legal counsel for the Recording Academy, along with a number of other grievances. 

Dugan replaced former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow following his controversial comments at the 2018 ceremony, where he said female artists needed to “step up” in response to criticism over the lack of awards handed to women. 

Dugan’s tenure ended last week, when she was put on “administrative leave” over an undisclosed allegation of misconduct. It has since been reported that she faced accusations of bullying by a female employee, which Dugan denies.

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She has now filed a discrimination complaint, in which she claims she was sexually harassed by Joel Katz, a former board of trustees member. 

According to Pitchfork, in an email dated 22 December, Dugan outlined an allegation of sexual harassment against Katz, an attorney at the law firm Greenberg Trauig.

Katz is currently general counsel to the Academy, as well as being a former member and Chair of the Academy’s board of trustees. 

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The email alleges that in May 2019, before Dugan began working at the Academy, she was invited to a private one-on-one dinner with Katz.

During the dinner, Katz allegedly displayed “disconcerting and utterly inappropriate” behaviour towards Dugan, calling her “baby”, discussing her appearance, and telling her she was “very pretty”.

He allegedly suggested the two of them could “spend some time together”, and at the end of the dinner attempted to kiss Dugan despite her repeated statements of disinterest. She claims that this inappropriate behaviour continued “unabated” after their initial meeting.

Howard Weitzman, an attorney for Katz, told Variety: “Ms Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false and Mr Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening. 

“This dinner meeting was 2½ months before Ms Dugan started her job. Mr Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, and others, were dining. Ms Dugan’s claims are made, for the first time, sevent months after this dinner took place. 

“Mr Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms Dugan will do the same.”

In the complaint, Dugan also states the Grammy nomination and voting processes are “ripe with corruption”. She claims another reason she was pushed out of her role was because she wanted to reform a system where huge payouts were allegedly made to “male partners of large law firms who are extremely conflicted with respect to their work for the Academy”.

In a response, the Recording Academy said Dugan “never raised these grave allegations” until she was accused of bullying by a female employee. 

The Academy also claimed that Dugan “demanded” $22m (£16.9m) to step down from her position.

“Our loyalty will always be to the 21,000 members of the recording industry,” the Recording Academy said in a statement to Pitchfork

“We regret that Music’s Biggest Night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan’s actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.” 

Dugan’s lawyers responded, calling the Recording Academy’s assertions “not credible”.

“The complaint that we filed today against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammys) highlights tactics reminiscent of those deployed by individuals defending Harvey Weinstein,” they said. “As we allege, the attempt by the Recording Academy to impugn the character of Deborah Dugan is a transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity. 

“This blatant form of retaliation in corporate America is all too common, even post #MeToo, and we will utilise all lawful means necessary to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”

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